Last night's Counting Crows and Augustana concert had a lot in common with Sunday's World Cup final: Two "teams" giving it their all, an endless sense of anticipation throughout, little in the way of highlights -- though most who stayed 'til the end left satisfied -- and a last-minute heart -breaker of a goal by Andres Iniesta.
Wait ... forget that last thing. I botched my Venn diagram.
Put it this way: The smart fans for both spectacles were the ones who took their pre-gaming seriously and showed up at halftime.
For the second year in a row these two acts brought their "Traveling Circus and Medicine Show" to the area – this time Pier 6 Pavilion – in an unconventional but utterly welcome format. ...
Here is a link to a photo gallery from the show.
Initially both bands and all the backup musicians – that includes everyone from accordion and ukulele players to a white rapper – took the stage. Then, throughout the 28-song, three-hour set, a rolling group of performers from both camps hopped on and off stage with a 15-minute break in the middle.
Little of note happened before or immediately after that intermission. Augustana singer Dan Layus rolled out the piano and serenaded the crowd with "Boston," the California band's biggest hit to date. The Counting Crows notably played "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby." But nothing shaggy front man Adam Duritz, Mr. Layus, several bonafide guitar solos, the accordion player or even the barely legal Pocahontas-looking nymph dancing in the cheap seats could do seemed to lure more than one-third of the crowd to their feet.
However, the Medicine Show's revitalizing tonic came from two seemingly unlikely sources.
First, the aforementioned rapper, Notar, hit the stage for the second time, bringing a dose of adrenaline (name-checking Ray Lewis and sporting a Ravens tee didn't hurt) even while spitting sheer nonsense ("Blap, blap, blap ... 'Cuz I'm a matador!").
Stylistically, Notar was a blend of Mike Shinoda and Zack de la Rocha, though just to rein it in from such lofty comparisons, bear in mind that at one point he rhymed "Counting Crows" with "counting hoes." Consider me entertained! Signed to Duritz's record label, Notar was often seen raising a beer to no one in particular or throwing one of his many towels into the audience.
The show's second shot in the arm came in the form of a song the Counting Crows hadn't played all tour but dusted of for obvious reasons: "August and Everything After's" "Raining in Baltimore." Even Mr. Duritz admitted it was pandering, but hey, it worked.
From here on out it was a steady stream of hits ("Long December," "Hangingaround," "Rain King"), reprisals of those hits, and a few irresistible sing-along covers of the likes of Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie and most agreeably "With a Little Help From My Friends," sung more akin to Joe Cocker than Ringo.
Even without "Mr. Jones" (an omission I'm just fine with), I'm all right with grudgingly granting this show "hootenanny" status.
(Baltimore Sun photos by Algerina Perna)